My name is Don Gordon BELL and I am one of the earliest of the first generation of KAD's (Korean ADoptees). The Korean War had been settled by Armistice three years before I left war-torn Seoul, Korea, on May 21, 1956. It was the first plane of twelve 'war babies' processed thru the Harry Holt Adoption Program. Read more of MY STORY on My Pages.
I grew up in a typical middle-class family of English-Scottish roots in greater Los Angeles, Ca, USA. Memories faded, Korean language was 'lost' and I did not know anything about the country of my birth until I met Korean Marines in Vietnam while serving with the US Marines. It was my first exposure to real Korean people. I was not completely aware of how prejudiced most Koreans thought towards a Half-Breed like me. I learned what "Tuigi" meant, a Korean word for a "Child of a Foreign devil". Oh, wonderful.

All my life I always had to answer the question: "What ARE you?" and I simply would tell 'my story'. It was not a big deal for me, for my Adoptive Parents had taught me that being an American meant that WE were from many countries. I never 'wished to be White' and just learned to stand up for my own identity. MY Identity was as an American, with mixed heritage. I did not know what being "Korean" meant but often wondered about my roots, and what my birth father's ethnicity. Mexican, Native Americans, and Spanish people would tell me that I had their 'genes' for sure. Little did I know they were right!

After college, I traveled to Manila and for ten years I lived in the Philippines. I was excepted as a 'mestizo' and fit into the former Spanish colony. I was a B-movie Character Actor,
working on international and local films, enjoying a 'crazy and wild' abandonment. Then a life changing experience gave me faith in a personal Higher Being. After walking away from the film business, I lived back in the USA, not sure of my direction in life finding work in construction, finish carpentry, door hanging, and many other jobs I'd like to forget.

In 1991, at 38, I attended a Holt Heritage Camp that was a great experience and really began my own journey of Adoption Identity search. I had never thought much of my Korean culture, though I always felt proud of being "HALF-Korean" and "half-Something".

In 1994 I came back to Seoul, Korea, with my church Vineyard Christian Fellowship, and was invited to stay with a church in East Seoul, for one year. I have lived here since late 1995- re-discovering my "Korean-ness", teaching English and telling my Adoption Story to thousands of Korean students of all ages, helping their understanding of Korean Adoptees. It is one of the issues that Korea is now facing, even for its own secretly adopted children, those who were adopted IN-Country by Koreans who desired a family but due to problems with Infertility secretly adopt.

I was a charter member in 1997 (first dozen members) of GOA'L (Global Overseas Adoptees' Link, founded by Ami Nafzger) and continue to be involved with the complex issues of This Thing of Ours-Adoption. Thousands of KADs have visited Korea over the years, searching for their culture and Some search for birth family. Seventy-five thousand have come, yet only 2,400 plus have found Reunion with Birth family, often with varying results. There are many complexities, many don't want to search concerned about offending their Adoptive Families. Each KAD must decide what they want to do, when to do it, etc.

At 61, I am still 'working thru' my Adoption Identity. Each of YOU need to 'work through' your own understanding and hopefully find forgiveness and healing. Read many different accounts and compare before coming to conclusions. I hope that you will learn what IS happening NOW, in the land of your birth, the Rep. of Korea (South Korea). (See Report Links).

Times are changing, the reasons for 'relinquishment for adoption' have shifted, but there continues to be a need for a multi-tiered approach and understanding of Adoption issues. Slowly, attitudes of Korean society ARE changing for the better. But, the majority continue to feel embarrassment and shame. Thus, Adoption is still shrouded in secrecy even for those who are adopted In-country. There ARE positive signs and movements of NGO's and KAD groups are advocating for the Unwed Mothers. However, two-thirds of pregnant women each year, continue to give up their babies for adoption. One out of four are sent overseas, YET three are secretly adopted in-country. The Myth that "Koreans don't adopt" is false, but they need to open up and hopefully change their shame to pride.

This blog is for EVERYONE, whether you are an Adoptee, Adoptive Family, Birth Family or involved in Adoption in ANY way as a professional, social worker, official, etc, from Korea or the world. We examine the complex issues and personal journeys that we, domestic and overseas adoptees, have to face and sort out in This Thing of Ours-Adoption. (Use the Ligit Search function (Left Column) to check for Posts on various topics, TransRacial, TranCultural, MultiCultural families, Domestic, Civil Code Law Adoptions, InterCountry Adoption, etc.)
I personally have come to a compromised, nuanced position on this thing of ours-adoption. I advocate a Multi-tiered Plan that tries to be balanced, realistic, fair to all.

UPDATE: Living in the Philippines since 2010, at first teaching students from several countries as an Online Tutor, based in Makati, Metro Manila. I was working on a Digital Library for Online Tutoring or ELearning; developing an agritourism farm; and Overseas Retirement Care for foreigners needing 24/7 health care.

Then some 18 months ago, in July of 2012 I met with Andrew Leavold, a crazy film obsessed Aussie who helped "pull me back into film making".

WHEW! Lot on my plate. I have also been learning much about the Filipino society's very different viewpoints on unwed motherhood and adoption.

Latest: As of Sept. 2012, I worked on an Indie Film, "Baybayin, the Palawan Script", directed by Auraeus Solito, and international award winning Filipino director. I had a role in the film and explored my hobby as a STILLS Photographer. Currently I have quit all teaching, co-writing on an international film that will be done in 3D and CGI effects. I am back in the film-making business and I love it.

Adoption Discourse needs to hear YOUR VOICE. Every opinion, even opposing viewpoints will be posted and interaction invited by email and Comments have been activated again with spam filters!)
. Welcome, come learn, and share your thoughts.

December 13, 2010

Multi-Tiered Plan

Multi-Tiered Plan
"Top to Bottom Priority that
Considers the Rights of Child and
Birth Family
In a Balanced Manner"

By the Korean War Baby

Best to Worst Case Scenarios

Ethnic Korean
Family Adoption
Korean Adoptees/ Or KAD
married to Non-Korean Spouse
Trans-Racial/cultural adoption
Foster Care in Group Homes
Institutional Care
Abandoned and Living on the Streets
Best to Worst Case Scenarios

This represents a rough idea of the Best for a child (Family Preservation) all the way DOWN to being abandoned and living on the streets. Following are some notes I have thrown together after studying the current situation in the Republic of Korea. 

Please, please feel free to add comments or critics, any suggestions on things I may have forgotten. Let's work together!!
1. Family Preservation
Family Preservation - When it is POSSIBLE or DESIRED by the MOTHER, there should be support for her decision to KEEP her baby, even if her own family rejects her.
  • Along with single divorced mothers, and widowed mothers, the government should increase Daycare Centers with financial help increased.
  • Educational support must also increase in length of time, in order for single mothers to have assistance through critical years of development. This will benefit any woman who has need and the guidelines must be adjusted to separate from her parent’s responsibility.

    • Families of Birth Father and the Birth Fathers, should be forced by law to provide child support after paternity is determined by DNA testing by the Civil Courts- THIS IS Not done now). 
    2. Ethnic Korean Family Adoption

    Ethnic Koreans means both those living as citizens in ROK, and those of the Korean Diaspora even if they have given up their Korean citizenship. Mission to Promote Adoption by Koreans MPAK is a leader in this area. Adoptions should be Adopted Child has the Right to Know that they are adopted. Korean Parents must be encouraged and given guidelines in HOW and WHEN to do this, plus awareness of the possible difficulties that their child may have in possible psychological damage, i.e. Attachment Disorders. Adoption should be Non-Secret but None of this is done now.

    STOP Civil Code Law Adoption in Korea, that does NOT follow the Hague Conventions on Adoption and Rights of the Child. The government MHWFA is reportedly considering joining all three aspects of Adoption under the same legal guidelines. THIS WOULD BE GOOD and protect the child’s rights while giving women who are pregnant outside of marriage.

    However, a woman also must have the option, after being presented with ALL options, done by social workers not directly connected to Adoption Agencies, to Relinquish her child for adoption. AND furthermore she should be able to choose WHERE, Overseas in ICA or Domestic adoption, vetted by the government and Four Adoption Agencies.

    ***************************** .
    3. Korean Adoptee Couple Or KAD
    married to Non-Korean Spouse

    A Korean ADoptee, who is married to another KAD or a spouse of any ethnicity. They HAVE a complex personal understanding of adoption and will be able to help their adopted child in Adoption Identity understanding, even later in the issues of whether to Search for Birth Parents. 

    All Korean Adoptees, KADs who wish to adopt should have some priority over other Non-Korean Korean nationals. OF if the child has NOT been matched with Korean Nations willing and able to adopt a child, on a case to case basis considering age of child and situation of processing of PAPs (Potential Adoptive Parents).
    IF, at time of each individual case, no PAP that is of Korean ethnicity is available THEN the next level should happen.
    4. Trans-Racial/cultural Adoptive Family

    Trans-Racial/cultural adoption to a “Blended” Adoptive Family that is thoroughly vetted and given continuing support on InterCountry Adoptions. Social workers should give priority to families that already have at least one other Adopted child.

    If this is not possible then those Adopting for first first Trans-Racial adoption SHOULD now be considered. Adoption is NOT limited to Race/Ethnicity/Language, etc. 

    Care should be taken to develop a 'training program' and support system on a National or Federal Basis for every State to follow. This would ensure that Adopting Parents have resources for any problems they may face. Vetting of PAPs must be universal and Adoption Professionals have tons of material, but it should be mandatory to take these courses BEFORE adoption takes place.  
    (I KNOW this will get some people but the KWB thinks Gay/lesbian 'single Adoptive Parents', should be last choice, because even though an Adopting family might later go through divorce (this does happen sadly); a child has the right to start off with a complete Family first. Single parent adoptions should be also vetted more to prevent possible abuse. It is almost impossible to prevent sexual abuse if there is no Prior conviction though unfortunately. )


    5. Foster Care in Group Homes

    Foster Care is fairly new in Korea and does allow a better situation than a crowded institution. Foster Care should be made to allow legal adoption easier, as has been done in USA.
    Group homes are now being developed where 4-6 children stay with a Korean family BUT this is still short of having their own family. Too many children are kept in the country, in order to save the SHAME of being a "Baby exporter". What about the Child's RIGHTS? To save embarrassment children are kept in the country.

    Too many children are being prevented from adoption because their birth parents don’t remain in contact. There should be time period that allows “Relinquishment” if they Do Not make contact and sign the Relinquishment papers.

    There are thousands of Korean Orphans trapped by the system because their birth parents have NOT MADE CONTACT. The orphans will grow up in the institutions then be completely on their own when they reach 18 years old. Depending on the city they live in they will receive $2,000 to $5,000 with little help.

    Only 3% will finish university, most will only be able to get low paying Dirty, Dangerous, and Difficult jobs. They have NO support groups, on their own living as third class citizens.

    Group Homes are merely ‘mini-orphanages’ and every effort should be made to allow children to be adopted, even to overseas families.
    6. Institutional Care

    Institutional Care is perhaps the worst thing for children who know that they will never have a family. The only life they experience is the overcrowded conditions and over-worked staff who can only attend to their basic needs. What ‘love’ can they possibly get in such environments? Very limited, yet tens of thousands (around 30,000) presently languish in the 280 institutions of South Korea.

    “Every Child deserves to have a home”!!
    7. Abandoned and Living on the Streets

On the Streets…In the real world, millions of children are abandoned, destitute, and forced to live on the streets. The UNICEF figures show 13 million ‘double orphans’ who have lost both their parents, and over 132 million who have lost one parent. There is commonly NO welfare system to speak of, period in their countries.

They face a lifetime of begging, thieving, child prostitution, adult prostitution, starvation, suffering, struggling to just survive. Corruption, greed, indifference, children and adults are traded into the sex trade, others into slave conditions. While U.N. and NGO’s attempt to help, the conditions have not improved, such as in Haiti and many other countries.

Those who advocate just helping the children to stay in the country of their birth, disregard that in many cases their own parents DO give them up for a chance at a better future. Should their sacrifice be ignored? Difficult question.
Hague Convention standards should/must be applied to EVERY ‘sending’ country especially by ‘Receiving’ countries like the USA. There is “Better Ways to do it” in This Thing of Ours-Adoption.
This is a work in Progress, help with your input.

Please send the Korean War Baby any suggestions and critics on this first draft of the Multi-Tiered Plan.@

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